POT 2002 Syllabus


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POLITICAL THEORY 2002 INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL THEORY Instructor: Dr. Alan B. Beck Office: A207K Class Meetings: TTH, 2-3:15 pm Phone: 352-395-5009 Office Hours: WF, 1-3:30 pm, e-mail: [email protected] TTH 10 am-noon web site: http://people.sfcollege.edu/alan.beck/ Goals of this course : This is a course in political philosophy. It is intended to help students develop a grounding in the broad philosophical questions of politics, which helps to lead us to an understanding of the political world and helps us to consider the important questions of day-to-day political life. We will read several of the “great thinkers” of Western political thought: Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, J.S. Mill, Marx, to name a few. We will also look at the work of some more contemporary political thinkers. Through our readings and discussions, we will explore some very big questions: What is the nature of human beings, and given human nature, what type of society best suits humans—a kingdom, an oligarchy, a democracy, a dictatorship? Why do people enter into political societies? What purposes should a political society serve—liberty, virtue, justice, efficiency, equality, material well-being, happiness, etc? And what constitutes any of these possible goals? Should the well-being of individuals be sacrificed for the greater good? What justifications are there for political leaders to hold power? Is it okay for leaders to deceive the people in order to achieve these goals? What is the role of women in society? What is the role of religion in politics? On and on. Understanding these kinds of fundamental questions is central to a complete understanding of politics, to understanding the basis for the ideologies that dominate politics, to raising questions about the current power structure and whether it is just and fair, to raise questions about what our vision should be for our society as we move further into the 21 st Century. You will find that understanding political philosophy will help you to understand the political debates that you hear today, be it what we should do about global warming or how we should deal with Iran, or what we should do to ensure the greatest number of people have health insurance (or whether we should ensure this). This is a reading and discussion course. It will immerse you in some of the major political ideas, give you a first-hand knowledge of the most influential political thinkers in history, and give you a strong foundation for having a better understanding of politics. Skills Needed To Do Well In This Course In order to succeed in this course, you must have strong reading comprehension and writing skills and a high degree of intellectual curiosity . I emphasize this because it is an extremely important point: without these qualities, you won’t enjoy the course and you won’t do well.
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Required Readings : Book: Do not buy a book for this course! Books containing the material we need for our course (excerpts of the works of the great thinkers
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